Violins of Hope

Hannah Tarley will perform at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on January 19.

Music can be a source of hope, comfort, and a reminder of our shared humanity even during the darkest times. Holocaust survivors have recalled that the strains of a beloved song supplied solace during the horrors of their imprisonment, even if only for a few moments. In some cases, the ability to play the violin spared Jewish musicians from grueling labors or death; they literally played for their lives.

In a landmark eight-week musical residency at Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, “the physical presence of these unique instruments and the music they will inspire along with their stories of the Holocaust, will surely bring all who are touched by them closer to understanding the power of hope,” notes Katherine Burkstein, who along with her husband Roy serves as co-chair of the Violins of Hope San Francisco Bay Area Leadership council.

Roy adds, “The Violins of Hope programs will deeply impact myriad communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.” Those programs will bring together 42 local organizations with concerts, exhibitions, lectures, films, interfaith services, and community forums for a special commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, set for January 27 at San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El.

One of the special instruments that will be part of the Violins of Hope project.

A notable highlight of the project will be a new chamber composition created by award-winning composer/librettist team Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer titled, Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope. The piece was commissioned by Music at Kohl. Performing in this world premiere on January 19, with preview on January 18, will be renowned opera and concert star, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, world-acclaimed violinist Daniel Hope, and a string quartet comprised of members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

Executive Director of Kohl Mansion Patricia Kristof Moy notes, “It is our hope that with this eight-week residency the violins will not only remind us of the shameful way they were used in the past, but will also speak anew, serving as life-affirming symbols, fostering important discussions on peace and human dignity, and ultimately creating a musical bridge of grace and compassion throughout our diverse Bay Area.”

During the residency concerts will be given by San Francisco Symphony’s Chamber Musicians, New Century Chamber Orchestra, Oakland Symphony, Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, Ariel Quartet, Alexander String Quartet, and the Young Chamber Musicians of Burlingame—all presented by special arrangement with Music at Kohl Mansion.

Several instruments will also be on exhibition at the War Memorial Veterans Gallery, Peninsula JCC, and New Museum Los Gatos.

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